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Vanderbilt Preview

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Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

For the second time in 5 years, Kansas finds itself in the Maui finals. This year's opponent isn't as good as the 2011-12 Duke team that ended up winning the Maui title, but it is certainly good enough to beat the Jayhawks tonight.

A lot has been said about Vanderbilt's pace and space offense, but they haven't really had the pace part since 2010, and haven't really had the space part since 2013. The Commodores ranked 13th in 3-point shooting last season, and are definite threats to shoot the Jayhawks out of the gym.

This season, the Commodores are also limiting 3-point attempts. Vanderbilt opponents are taking under 30 percent of their shots from three, and shooting just 19.5 percent behind the arc. That number will (or should) go up after this one, but the Jayhawks might need to take it inside to score.

Vanderbilt hasn't played the greatest schedule yet, with its best win being an overtime victory over Stony Brook at home, but they've still posted impressive numbers. The Commodores are 11th in turnover rate, 35th in eFG, and 11th in eFG allowed. Just as worryingly, they pose some challenges to the Jayhawks personnel wise.

Players to watch

7-0 Damian Jones is shooting 52 percent inside, is a good defensive rebounder, and is one of the best shot blockers in the SEC.

The other half of Vanderbilt's twin towers is 7-1 Luke Kornet. The junior is shooting 62 percent from two, and his eFG is being dragged down by his starting the season 0-13 on threes. However, Kornet shot 41 percent behind the arc (on 107 attempts) last season, so be prepared for a hot night tonight from him. It will be key for Perry Ellis and the rest of the KU big men to try and outrun those two in transition whenever possible, and to help clear the lane for drives by Frank Mason.

Vanderbilt's trio of Wade Baldwin (8-15), Riley LaChance (8-19), and Matthew Fisher-Davis (9-19) are shooting 47 percent from three combined, so the Jayhawks are going to have to get out and defend those guys better than they defended shooters in the first two games of the tournament.

Prediction

This looks like a pretty heavy offensive game. Like against UCLA, Kansas could get frustrated if they keep attacking the rim over and over, but if they can get out in transition enough and keep shooting well from deep I think they'll take down the Maui title. I'll go Kansas with a 81-77 win.